Fire protection is a concern for both your residential and commercial clients, but in certain types of commercial facilities, fire is a much greater risk and one that you can help address with specialized coatings as part of a paint project. Of course every business should have smoke detectors, sprinklers, fire alarms and extinguishers, but beyond this, many of your clients may be surprised to know they can get additional protection from fire risk in their choice of paint products.
Fire protective coatings, also known as intumescent coatings, look no different from standard paint, but when exposed to high heat from fire, they form a char layer that helps protect the material they are applied to. Intumescent coating paint can be used on any type of surface, but most commercial painters use it when working with steel components. The main purpose in this application is to ensure that the structural integrity of buildings is maintained while the fire is extinguished.
Steel is a hard and seemingly impenetrable substance under most circumstances, but in high temperature scenarios like fire, it becomes less stable at temperatures in excess of 1,020 degrees Fahrenheit. Industrial fires range in temperature from 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit if caught early up to 1,800 degrees F for a raging industrial fire without additional components to make it burn hotter. So in a typical fire in a building with steel girders, frames and supports, it’s likely that the steel components will weaken before the fire can be contained.
The char formed by intumescent coatings can protect steel for up to four hours after it forms. It is a poor conductor of heat, so it prevents the steel from reaching critical mass temperature. This is important because it allows time for workers to exit and safeguards fire and rescue workers as they evacuate and combat the blaze.
In some states, safety codes require application of intumescent coatings. It’s important that you know your local laws so that your projects are in compliance. And in areas where it’s not required, this can be a valuable upsell for commercial clients. Intumescent paint can be applied to sheetrock, wood, concrete, metal or any other surface, because it looks like traditional paint. However, when it comes into contact with extreme heat, it will undergo a chemical change, expand and form the protective char.
This makes it an excellent add-on to any commercial paint job where there is significant fire risk. This can include restaurants, auto shops, manufacturing facilities, oil and gas drilling and refining facilities, facilities that use hydrocarbons, chemical plants and anywhere highly flammable materials are in use, resulting in an increased risk of fire. There are a wide array of intumescent coatings available that protect up to different maximum temperatures – some up to more than 1,830 degrees Fahrenheit.
Studies have compared solvent-based with water-based intumescent coatings, but you’ll likely want to do your own research before selecting a product to suggest for a client as no one product will be a fit for every client facility and scenario. Before applying an intumescent paint, the technical data sheet should be studied to ensure you know the optimal thickness to apply the coating to get the best result, as well as safety precautions. As a rule, these coatings should not be allowed to come into contact with skin or eyes, proper respiration protection should be worn and the area should be well ventilated.